Coal Ash: The United States’ Multibillion-Ton Toxic Legacy
America’s coal plants produce 140 million tons of ash each year, making it the country’s second-largest industrial waste stream. The vast majority of that ash is blended with water to make it easier to move, and then pumped into impoundments that are often little more than holes in the ground.
There are currently more than 1,100 such impoundments in the US, of which almost half lack any kind of lining to prevent seepage, and every state that has coal-ash impoundments has also had EPA-verified water contamination incidents linked to the sites.
That’s troubling because coal ash contains toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, selenium, and other agents that have been linked to cancer, learning disabilities, neurological disorders, birth defects, reproductive failure, asthma, and other illnesses.